Thursday, March 31, 2011

Idaho passes law to assure that seniors and other vulnerable people are protected from Assisted Suicide

Bill SB 1070, the bill that makes assisted suicide a felony in Idaho, passed is going to the Governor to be signed.

Last year, Compassion & Choices, formerly the Hemlock Society, organized a significant push to gain public support for legalizing assisted suicide in Idaho. In response to the push by the suicide lobby, on February 4, Senator Russ Fulcher introduced Senate Bill SB 1070 to clean-up the criminal code making assisted suicide a felony in Idaho.

On March 11, the Idaho Senate passed the bill by a vote of 31 to 2 and on March 27, the Idaho House passed the bill by a vote of 61 to 8.

This is a significant victory that was supported by the Idaho Medical Association. This amendment will ensure that Idaho citizens and elders are protected from assisted suicide.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Nitschke euthanasia clinic in South Australia - may kill the euthanasia bill

Philip Nitschke, Australia's Dr. Death, announced a few days ago that he was looking for a location to open a Killing Centre in Adelaide South Australia. South Australia is currently debating a bill that would legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide for people with chronic conditions or disabilities. Nitschke stated to Adelaide Now:

It is expected the facility will be operational within a month, although a full service clinic would only be possible if the Bill passes through both both Houses of Parliament.
Yesterday Adelaide Now reported that Nitschke's plans have harmed the case for legalizing euthanasia in South Australia. Adelaide Now reported.
MPs who support or are undecided about a law aimed at protecting doctors who accelerate the death of terminally ill patients believe his move could ensure the defeat of private member's legislation put forward by Labor MP Stephanie Key....

Liberal frontbencher Duncan McFetridge, a co-sponsor of the Bill, said Dr Nitschke should have waited to see how the Bill fared in Parliament. "It is not a Bill aimed at stand-alone so-called death clinics," Dr McFetridge said. "He has not done this particular Bill any good at all. He is going to make it hard for us to get these people (possible supporters) back on side."

Liberal backbencher Michael Pengilly, who had said he was unsure about supporting the Key Bill, said Dr Nitschke had "put back the case of the pro-euthanasia lobby". "I think a lot of people who were undecided will now vote against it," he said.
The sponsor of the bill, Steph Key made it clear how she feels about Nitschke when she stated:
"I'm an admirer of his,"
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition published an Analysis of the South Australian euthanasia bill. We found that:
The bill must be seen for what it is. It is a law that is designed to impose death on the most vulnerable in society. The bill is not concerned with the veneer of choice or autonomy because it is designed to give the power over life and death to physicians. This bill will turn healers into killers and it will redefine the nature of medical care in South Australia. The bill is a travesty of justice.

Allegations of Sly Manoeuvring with euthanasia bill in South Australia

Australian commentator, Michael Cook wrote an article today about the attempt by the euthanasia lobby to push the euthanasia bill through the South Australia parliament in a covert manner. This is what Michael Cook wrote:

The South Australian parliament is once again preparing to vote on euthanasia. But this time – the third in two years – there have been allegations of sly manoeuvring to push the bill through. Jim Wallace, of the Australian Christian Lobby, says that the bill’s supporters are describing it as advanced palliative care. But the presence of Australia’s best-known euthanasia activist complicates this view:
“If, as Premier Mike Rann says, the bill is really about palliative care, why is Australia’s best known euthanasia advocate Dr Philip Nitschke stalking Adelaide looking for a site to set up Australia’s first death clinic?” “I don’t think anyone in their right mind would send granny to a ‘palliative care’ clinic run by Dr Nitschke. Euthanasia involves the deliberate killing of a patient using a lethal substance and this bill decriminalises this practice. This is very different from the quite legal and compassionate practice of relieving a patient’s pain even if it does hasten death.”
Mr Wallace also complained that the euthanasia bill, sponsored by MP Stephanie Key, passed its second reading on the voices without a division.
“South Australians must not be denied the right to see a Hansard record of how their MPs vote on this life and death issue. Again this demonstrates how euthanasia proponents are arrogantly pursuing their agenda without the transparency such a grave issue demands.”
Alex Schadenber has analysed the bill. He claims that it is very badly drafted. But the most powerful argument may simply be exhaustion. Mr Wallace pointed out that South Australia has already rejected euthanasia twice in the past two years along with three other Australian Parliaments. “Euthanasia advocates are trying to bring about their agenda through legislative fatigue and deception,” Mr Wallace said. The debate in South Australia has been echoed overseas. Alex Schadenberg, of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition,
“The bill gives physicians near absolute power to directly and intentionally cause the death of their patients. The bill steers people with disabilities and others who live with chronic conditions to euthanasia. These are the people who the current law protects from those who believe that the lives of some people are not worth living.

‘The bill must be seen for what it is. It is a law that is designed to impose death on the most vulnerable in society. The bill is not concerned with the veneer of choice or autonomy because it is designed to give the power over life and death to physicians. This bill will turn healers into killers and it will redefine the nature of medical care in South Australia. The bill is a travesty of justice.”

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

South Australia – Euthanasia Bill: An Analysis

South Australia House of Assembly Bill No 88 – Criminal Law Consolidation (Medical Defences – End of Life Arrangements) Amendment Bill 2011

By Alex Schadenberg

The South Australia private members bill (the bill) that is sponsored by Steph Key MP to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide is unique and dangerous.
The bill amends Criminal Law by creating a defense to euthanasia and assisted suicide, for physicians, if prosecuted.

The bill is a radical change to medical ethics by enabling physicians to directly and intentionally kill their patients and it gives the court power over undefined statutes based on what the court considers as reasonable.

The bill is more dangerous than other frameworks that I have seen that legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The language of the bill allows unbridled euthanasia and assisted suicide without definitions possibly based on a false assumption that physicians will not abuse the Act, since conviction is possible. Subsection (6) of the bill even denies physician groups the right to self-regulate the Act, while Dr Philip Nitschke will be happy to open a euthanasia clinic and challenge the court to allow euthanasia for people who are “tired of living.”

The bill amends Section 13 of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act by creating a defense for physicians who are prosecuted under the law.

The bill allows a physician to directly and intentionally cause the death of their patient who is:
- believed, on reasonable grounds (undefined) to be an adult person of sound mind who was suffering from an illness, injury or other medical condition (not terminal) that irreversibly impaired the person’s quality of life (undefined) so that life had become intolerable to that person (the qualifying illness); and
- the conduct to which the charge relates occurred at the express request (undefined) of the person; and
- the conduct to which the charge relates was, in all the circumstances, a reasonable response (undefined) to the suffering of the person.
The bill will allow a physician to directly and intentionally kill a patient who is not terminally ill, if that patient is suffering from a chronic condition. People with disabilities who experience a medical condition that impairs their “quality of life” (undefined) and people who are “tired of living” killed by their physician if their physician believes death is reasonable (undefined).

As if the bill was not written widely enough, Subsection (3) of the bill encourages the court to acquit physicians who have been prosecuted if:
- the conduct to which the charge relates was done in good faith (undefined) and in the ordinary course of the defendant’s employment; and
- the conduct of the medical practitioner in relation to the death or intended death of the person was, in all the circumstances, a reasonable response (undefined) to the suffering of the person.
Subsection (3) of the bill would enable Dr. Nitschke the freedom to lethally inject any patient because it would become the ordinary course of his employment.

Subsection (3) does not define when euthanasia is a “reasonable response to the suffering of the person.” It is unlikely that physician could be convicted for euthanasia under this Act because the language is written for an undefined application.

Subsection (4) of the bill encourages the court to acquit the physician by stating:
- A court may acquit a defendant under subsection (3) even if the medical practitioner has been convicted of an offence arising out of the death or intended death of the person.
Subsection (5) encourages the court to apply a definition of “reasonable response” (undefined) within an already wide framework. It states:
- a court must have regard to the fact that the Parliament intends that conduct bringing about the end of a person’s life is a reasonable response to such suffering in exceptional circumstances (undefined), including where palliative care measures have not relieved the person’s suffering to a level acceptable to the person.
Subsection (6) removes civil liability and the power of the Medical Association to punish a physician who was prosecuted and has now been acquitted. The court must only be concerned that:
- provided that the conduct was done in good faith and without negligence; and
- that court may make such ancillary orders as the court thinks fit.
The South Australian parliament needs to kill the bill. The bill gives physicians near absolute power to directly and intentionally cause the death of their patients. The bill steers people with disabilities and others who live with chronic conditions to euthanasia. These are the people who the current law protects from those who believe that the lives of some people are not worth living.

The bill must be seen for what it is. It is a law that is designed to impose death on the most vulnerable in society. The bill is not concerned with the veneer of choice or autonomy because it is designed to give the power over life and death to physicians. This bill will turn healers into killers and it will redefine the nature of medical care in South Australia. The bill is a travesty of justice.

Suicide Predator found guilty on two counts of assisted suicide

William Francis Melchert-Dinkel has been found guilty of advising two people to commit suicide. The evidence shows that Melchert-Dinkel worked from his home in Minnesota, and used the internet to actively encourage Mark Drybrough to hang himself in Coventry, UK, in 2005. In 2008, he encouraged Nadia Kajouji to end her life in Ottawa, Canada. Both victims committed suicide within days or hours of Melchert-Dinkel’s last contact.

About The Victims

As a young man, Mark Drybrough displayed symptoms of depression. The disease became worse at about 30 years of age, when he had a nervous breakdown that made him unable to work. During that time, he began to meet other suicidal people on an internet chat site. For over seven weeks, Melchert-Dinkel consistently encouraged Mark to commit suicide. Mark hung himself at home on July 27 2005.

Nadia Kajouji had was in her first year at Carlton University in Ottawa. Shortly after a miscarriage, she was assailed by a deepening depression. Melchert-Dinkel pursued her on a different chat site, and for ten days intensely urged her to follow through on her suicidal feelings. Melchert-Dinkel encouraged Nadia to hang herself, in such a way that he could watch her death on the web-cam. She drowned after jumping into the freezing Rideau River March 9 or 10.

Both Mark and Nadia were in contact with loving parents. Both of them were suffering from depression. Both were receiving medication and professional counseling to deal with their suicidal thoughts. After hearing Melchert-Dinkel’s deceptive words, both Mark and Nadia died alone and in despair.

About Melchert-Dinkel

William Melchert-Dinkel is currently a 49-year-old husband and father of two. In statements to police, he revealed that he:
- had been frequenting suicide chat rooms for at least three years.
- was in contact with 11 suicidal people, of whom 5 committed suicide.
- hid his identity from the victims, most often representing himself as a female nurse
- used three different web identities to camouflage his activity
- kept his activities secret from his wife
- attempted to blame his daughter for the incriminating web correspondence
- offered specific advice on hanging, his preferred method
- attempted to persuade his victims to let him watch their strangulation on web cams
- pretended to enter suicide pacts with the victims, to encourage them to kill themselves
- freely described all of this to police officers, changing his story to avoid consequences

To neither his victims nor to their grieving families did he ever display more than the briefest display of sympathy. William Melchert-Dinkel is clearly a very sick man, but a criminally competent suicide predator.

Judge Thomas Neuville’s Decision

1. Minnesota’s law is valid. Suicide is not a fundamental liberty; the state has a compelling interest in preserving human life; and the law does not unduly restrict free speech.
2. Melchert-Dinkel’s speech is “categorically unprotected” by the U.S. constitution. To be protected as free speech, the specific speech must be publicly uttered, and must address an issue in the public interest. Melchert-Dinkel’s communication to the victims was private, and it did not address suicide as an issue for public discussion. Instead, the speech was uttered specifically to encourage the destruction of two human beings.
3. The suicidal tendency of his victims is no defense.
4. Under Minnesota law, Melchert-Dinkel can be held responsible for intending to utter speech that would encourage the suicide of the two victims. It is not necessary for the state to prove that Melchert-Dinkel intended their deaths, or that his speech was solely responsible for their deaths.
5. Melchert-Dinkel will be sentenced on May 4, 2011.

What This Means For Us

Minnesota appears to have a well-framed law that may serve as a model for similar laws in other jurisdictions. There is certainly a need for such a law: Melchert-Dinkel is not the only person with a voyeuristic compulsion to watch people die. Jack Kevorkian’s self-portrait is sketched with the same pencil.

Because cause-and-effect can easily straddle national boundaries, every jurisdiction has a responsibility to establish laws against the act of encouraging suicide via the internet. Nadia Kajouji was a Canadian citizen who died in Canada, yet Melchert-Dinkel was not extradited to face charges in Canada. It appears that the Ottawa police believed that Melchert-Dinkel was less likely to face justice in Canada than he was in Minnesota. The law must be amended to assure that Canada can protect people like Nadia and Mark from suicide predators from any nation with decisive strength.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition supported Harold Albrecht MP (Kitchener-Conestoga) who sponsored Motion 388 to urge the government to ensure that Section 241 of the Criminal Code effectively protects people like Nadia Kajouji from internet suicide predators like Melchert-Dinkel. We will be encouraging that a bill be introduced in the next parliament to amend the criminal code to ensure that internet suicide predators can be effectively prosecuted in Canada.

Link to a previous article concerning the Melchert-Dinkel case.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Dr Death planning to open euthanasia clinic in South Australia

Adelaide Now is reporting, that Philip Nitschke, Australia's Dr. Death, is scouting Adelaide Australia for a location for a euthanasia clinic.

The South Australian legislature is debating a bill that would legalize euthanasia. Last year a similar bill was pulled , before a vote, last November, to enable the euthanasia lobby to regroup and introduce another bill this year, as it has done.

Philip Nitschke is now openly promoting the idea of opening a euthanasia clinic in South Australia, if euthanasia is legalized. Last year, when the South Australian euthanasia bill was defeated, Nitschke encouraged people to come to him for death.

The article in Adelaide Now stated:
It is expected the facility will be operational within a month, although a full service clinic would only be possible if the Bill passes through both both Houses of Parliament.

Health Minister John Hill said the proposed legislation was designed to protect the ongoing doctor-patient relationship "not to allow a stand-alone clinic".

Dr Nitschke said the clinic would not be like those operating overseas where a person could just fly in and seek assistance to die.

He said if a person was in a position where they were dying and wanted help to end their life, they could get their doctor to refer them to the new clinic for advice and preparation.

Dr Nitschke said not every doctor was going to be involved in helping a patient end their life.

One of the "euthanasia/suicide techniques" that Nitschke promotes is death by Nembutal, a drug used by veterinarians for the euthanasia of large animals.

In February 2010, a study that was released by the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine indicated that there had been 51 known Nembutal deaths in Austalia in the previous 10 years.

An article printed in the Sydney Morning Herald on February 15, 2010 stated that:
In 27 cases there was no reference to these factors, prompting some to speculate these people had committed suicide because of psychological or psychiatric reasons. ...

In 10 cases, euthanasia material was found at the scene of the death, or it was discovered that the deceased had made contact with euthanasia organisations. Coroners found that eight people had obtained the drug from overseas. ...

Australians have been able to pay Exit International for guidelines on how to obtain Nembutal since 2000. People can also download Exit's instructions from The Peaceful Pill Handbook, which has been published online in the US since the drug was banned in Australia in 2007.

When interviewed by the Sydney Morning Herald Philip Nitschke responded to the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine report in this way:
Dr Nitschke said he was not surprised by the figures, as "dozens" of Australians had either bought the drug from veterinary clinics overseas or ordered it online. He said Exit had seen increasing numbers of people simply "tired of life".

While young people and those with mental illnesses could access Exit's instructions, he said, that risk had to be weighed against the benefits for many others. "There will be some casualties - but this has to be balanced with the growing pool of older people who feel immense wellbeing from having access to this information," he said.

Australians should be concerned about Nitschke's cavalier attitude toward euthanasia. Stating that "there will be some casualties" is no way to respond to the death of a depressed or mentally ill person or to the families who have needlessly lost a loved one to a senseless and avoidable death.

Further, I am convinced that Nitschke's wish to open a euthanasia clinic is based on the financial success of the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland.

The financial success and the lack of oversight related to the Dignitas clinic has also led to the Dutch euthanasia lobby wanting to open a euthanasia clinic.

South Australian legislators should consider Nitschke's promotion of euthanasia for those who are "tired of living" as too dangerous and kill the bill. The only casualty should be the death of the euthanasia bill in South Australia.

EPC supports the leadership of HOPE, the anti-euthanasia group in Australia, who are organized to defeat the euthanasia bill.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Dr. Clare Walker states: Unofficial euthanasia is practiced in the UK

The problem of covert euthanasia has been asserted by Dr. Clare Walker, The President of the Catholic Medical Association in the UK, recently stated that:
"euthanasia is being widely practiced in the NHS in an official way."

Dr. Walker explained that:
"she is regularly contacted by distressed healthcare professionals and managers who describe their experience of witnessing repeated instances of unofficial active euthanasia in their local areas"

She stated:
The standards of medical ethics and of interpretation of existing legislation appears to vary greatly around the country and from one organization to the next, even in the same local area.

Whether active euthanasia is actually widespread is unknown and anecdotal at best, but the reality is that the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition regularly receives phone calls and emails from family members and friends of people whose medical care-givers appear to be intentionally causing their death. Many of these cases are concerned family members reacting to end of life decisions that are made because the person is actually dying, whereas, sometimes these cases appear to be euthanasia.

Dr. Walker made reference to the application of the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) that was developed by the Royal Liverpool Hospital and the Marie Curie hospice in the 1990's.

The LCP is a set of criteria that is used to withdraw Life-Sustaining Treatment and a philosophy for the application of palliative care. There have been reports that indicate people, who were not otherwise dying, being dehydrated to death based on the LCP.

Concerning the LCP, Walker stated:
"If it is used out of context, then it could be used to the detriment of patients e.g. a patient comes into a resuscitation baby and it is not always clear if a condition is acute and can be treated."

Walker reported on a recent survey that was done by a colleague that examined crematorium records. The survey found that 23% of all deaths, in one city, of people who were put on the LCP that there had been no definite diagnosis at any stage.

Walker does not blame the LCP for what appears to be abuses that is causing death, but rather she blames the application of the LCP.

For instance, it is euthanasia to intentionally cause a persons death by dehydration, when that person is not otherwise dying. This is how Terri Schiavo died. It is not euthanasia to withhold hydration and nutrition (H & N) from a person who is actively dying and/or unable to assimilate H & N. That person is actually dying and the provision of H & N provides little to no benefit and may cause suffering.

Walker stated:
"The problems come when an idol is made of the protocols. It is the same story with anything if you make an idol of it you lose common sense and critical faculties."

She referred to this problem as
“tick box itus.”

If Walkers assessment is correct, most of these deaths are not euthanasia but rather medical malpractice or deaths related to physician error.

Gordon Macdonald of the Care Not Killing Alliance in the UK questioned that covert euthanasia is widespread in the UK. Macdonald stated that:
"Of course we share concerns over abuses,” he said. “Anecdotally we hear stories of certain care homes with questionable practices but generally we would not accept it’s widespread."

Walker may be understating the problem with LCP. She is correct to state that when protocols are abused, that it can result in the death of a person, who may have recovered with proper treatment. But the LCP does not prevent doctors from intentionally dehydrating people to death who are not otherwise dying.

Many physicians do not share Walker’s ethical principles and may use LCP as a protocol to intentionally and directly cause death (euthanasia) rather than unintentionally causing death out of a lack of proper training.

We must not to overstate the problem of covert euthanasia, as the euthanasia lobby does in order to promote euthanasia, and yet at the same time we must be vigilant to protect vulnerable people from backdoor euthanasia.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Euthanasia conference in India determines that the risk for abuse is great

An article that was published yesterday in The Times of India reports on a conference that examined the euthanasia issue from the perspective of leaders in India. The article was titled: Risk of misusing euthanasia large: Experts

The article stated:
Terming euthanasia an inhuman practice, experts from various fields unanimously declared that it should not be practised anywhere in the world.

Delivering the keynote address at a symposium on euthanasia organized by the Shubhada Society in association with the Bethany Social Service Trust, Dr Prabha Adhikari, Professor of Medicine at Kasturba Medical College, said the Supreme Court verdict which denied euthanasia for Aruna Shanbaug is a favourable decision as far as the medical fraternity is concerned. "No doctor will be willing to kill a patient by administering lethal medicines under any circumstance, as it is against ethics." ...

Dr Adhikari questioned the undue emphasis on euthanasia when there are palliative care centres for the elderly and ill across the country. While doctors in the west order Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) for terminally ill patients, hospitals in India continue to insist on providing life support facilities even though there is no hope of survival, she noted.

Further, she warned that the government needs to be cautious on euthanasia as it may be misused once legalised. Relatives, who have enmity with the patient, can misuse the rules by requesting for euthanasia, she added.

Richard Alvares, Graduate Assistant of St Raymonds High School, Vamanjoor, said the Constitution of India ensures only the right to live and it does not allow citizens the right to die.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Idaho bill to clarify that assisted suicide is illegal passes unanimously in House State Affairs Committee

The Associated Press reported that yesterday, the Idaho House State Affairs Committee passed Bill SB 1070. SB 1070 clarifies the penalties for assisted suicide in Idaho. The bill passed in the Idaho Senate by a vote of 31 to 2 and it is expected to pass in the House.

The AP article doesn't state that the bill passed unanimously in Committee. The article also omits that fact that assisted suicide is already illegal in Idaho and that this bill clarifies the statute and ensures that it is enforceable.

The Associated Press Article stated
Legislation to make assisted suicide a felony is headed to the Idaho House — its final hurdle in the 2011 session.

The measure cleared the House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday. If it becomes law, those found guilty face five years in prison

Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, introduced the legislation saying he wanted to make it clear Idaho rejects assisted suicide as a standard of care. It passed the Senate, but not without emotional debate that underscored lawmakers' discomfort with encroaching on deeply personal decisions even as they seek to protect life.

Lawmakers in the House lauded efforts to improve the measure.

Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, said she initially had doubts and feared it would allow "frivolous" intervention with end-of-life care, but changes had made it "a pretty decent bill."

Idaho represents one of four victories in this legislative session in the United States. New Hampshire, Hawaii and Montana defeated bills to legalize assisted suicide. Vermont is the last state with a bill to legalize assisted suicide. We anticipate the vote to be close but we expect that it will also be defeated.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The case of Desmond & Maria Watson, a victory and a love story

Recently the case of baby Joseph created an incredible amount of media interest. At the same time, similar cases are being heard in Canada, one of which is the case of Desmond Watson.

Toronto Star reporter Robert Cribb reported on March 18 and March 20th on the case of Desmond & Maria Watson.

The case concerning Desmond Watson who has been living at the Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital with failing health for the past 14 months is another case concerning who has the right to decide when to withhold or withdraw end-of-life treatment or care.

Maria Watson, who has been married to Desmond for 69 years, was told by the doctor recently that they were going to remove the ventilator from Desmond. Maria is the legal Power of Attorney for Desmond, refused to consent to the decision of the doctors. At the time, Desmond had pneumonia and was ventilator dependent, but since then his pneumonia has cleared up and he is once again breathing on his own.

The case was sent to the Consent and Capacity board whereby Mark Handelman represented Maria Watson in defense of their desire to continue receiving medical treatment for Desmond, based on his previously expressed beliefs.

What is different about this case is that Maria Watson won the case. As stated in the Toronto Star article the Consent and Capacity board - "ordered doctors at Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital to act against their own wishes and provide him with aggressive, life-saving treatment if his health falls into crisis."

What is important about this case is that Desmond Watson had legally appointed his wife Maria to be his Power of Attorney. There was no dispute on that matter. The dispute related to whether the physicians had the right to impose a treatment plan - that consisted of no treatment - on a patient against the wishes and consent of a legally appointed Power of Attorney.

The fact that the Consent and Capacity board sided with Maria Watson is a victory for people, who have significant medical conditions, when their medical condition is unlikely to improve, but who want to receive medical treatment. This case is also important for people who have cognitive disabilities.

This case was also a victory for people who live their life based on a faith perspective. The Toronto Star article on March 20 stated:
"Desmond’s wife and two of his daughters ... insisting the devout Catholic (Desmond) would have wanted to be given every chance at life despite any suffering he may be enduring."

The Toronto Star article quoted Maria Watson as stating:
“I’ve been carrying this thing for so long,” said a jubilant Maria, who plans to celebrate her 70th wedding anniversary with her husband in June. “(Hospital medical staff) gave me hell, lots of sleepless nights, but it’s over. I did it.”

Maria Watson's lawyer, Mark Handelman, stated to the Toronto Star.
“This was a case that basically pitted a person’s values and beliefs against his objective medical condition,” he said. “There’s a substantial obligation to the patient who, at that point, is among the most vulnerable people in our society. How can you be more vulnerable than to be dying and have other people adjudicating your rights?”

The Halton Healthcare Service issued a written statement saying it:
“respects the direction given by the Consent and Capacity Board” and will “continue to work with the patient’s substitute decision-maker for consent to treatment as the need arises.”

It doesn't matter whether you or I would choose to receive medical treatment in Desmond's condition. What matters is whether Desmond would have wanted the treatment withheld or withdrawn? The fact is that Maria clearly explained the beliefs, based pn 69 years of marriage to Desmond, and she defended that he would want treatment to continue and she wanted to fulfill his wishes by continuing to care for Desmond.

As much as this story is a great victory for people wishing to receive medical treatment, the issues are not settled in law. There is currently another case in the courts - the Rasouli case - whereby the doctors for Hassan Rasouli are arguing that it is not necessary for them to receive consent to remove the ventilator from Rasouli because the doctors deem it to be not providing any further benefit. Once again, the problem with these cases is that every case creates new precedents and there are many bad precedent decisions in Canada. The Rasouli case is currently being appealed to the Superior Court.

The article in the Toronto Star concluded by stating:
On Sunday, Maria said medical staff at Oakville Trafalgar told her Desmond could soon be moved out of the intensive care unit after showing steady improvement in recent weeks including a clearing of his pneumonia and removal of his ventilator.

“His face is like it used to be. It’s amazing,” says Maria. “It’s a miracle.”

This case is a great victory and a beautiful love story.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Assisted Suicide politics in the United States - Four Victories - One to go.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Following the November 2010 elections, the assisted suicide lobby announced that they will legalize assisted suicide in at least one eastern US state and that their push will lead to several states legalizing assisted suicide within the next few years.

It appears that the goals of the suicide lobby are failing.

In Hawaii, Senator Ige sponsored bill SB 803 to legalize assisted suicide that was introduced on January 21. SB 803 was sent to the Senate Health Committee where on February 7, it received more than 4 hours of debate.

Senate Health committee chairman Josh Green had stated in an interview that he would be supporting the assisted suicide bill. When the vote on SB 803 was called, it was defeated by 4 to 0 in committee

Green stated that he was swayed by the testimony. The testimony from the disability community was particularly effective. Recent bills to legalize assisted suicide in Hawaii in 2005 and 2007 were also defeated.

In Montana, a December 31, 2009 court decision, did not legalize assisted suicide or create a right to assisted suicide, as the suicide lobby claims, but the court did create a defense of consent for doctors who are prosecuted for assisted suicide.

Montana faced two bills concerning assisted suicide. On February 10, Senator Anders Blewitt sponsored Bill SB 167. To his surprise SB 167 was defeated by a vote of 7 to 5 in the Montana Senate Judiciary Committee.

Several days later Senator Greg Hinkle's Bill SB 116, that would have protected Montana citizens from assisted suicide, was also defeated by 7 to 5 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee. That means that after a huge campaign by the suicide lobby, assisted suicide remains illegal in Montana.

Last year the suicide lobby organized a significant push to gain public support for assisted suicide in Idaho. In response to the push by the suicide lobby, on February 4, Senator Russ Fulcher introduced Senate Bill SB 1070 to clean-up the criminal code to ensure that assisted suicide is completely illegal in Idaho.

On March 11, the Idaho Senate passed HB 1070 by a vote of 31 to 2.

New Hampshire
On February 2, New Hampshire bill HB 513, that was sponsored by Rep Charles Weed, to legalize assisted suicide was introduced. Those who follow the issue know that a similar bill to legalize assisted suicide was defeated in the New Hampshire legislature, in January 2010, by a vote of 242 to 113.

On February 28, bill HB 513 was debated in the New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee. On March 15, HB 513 was defeated by a vote of 234 to 99 in the New Hampshire House.

This is a substantial victory. HB 513 is essentially an "Oregon Style" bill. This proves that when lawmakers have the opportunity to debate Oregon Style assisted suicide, the majority will reject it as unsafe.

Following the November election, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin promised that his government would legalize assisted suicide in their state. Shumlin, who had unsuccessfully sponsored assisted suicide bills in the past, received significant support from the suicide lobby during his campaign for Governor.

Bill H 274 was introduced on February 17 after more than a month of delays. Once again, H 274 is an "Oregon Style" assisted suicide bill. A similar bill, that was sponsored by Shumlin, was defeated by a vote of 82 to 63 in March 2007.

The Vermont legislators need to examine H 274 and defeat it because it is a Recipe for Elder Abuse and only creates an illusion of choice.

We look forward to the defeat of Vermont bill H 274.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Melchert-Dinkel found guilty in the deaths of Nadia Kajouji and Mark Drybrough

Nadia Kajouji
Mark Drybrough
William Melchert-Dinkel, the former Minnesota nurse who admitted to being involved with the suicide deaths of Canadian Nadia Kajouji (18), who died in March 2008 and Mark Drybrough (32) from the UK, has been found guilty of aiding their suicides.

Kajouji was a first-year student at Carlton University in Ottawa, who was going through depression. She was vulnerable and steered to suicide by Melchert-Dinkel

After hearing that he was found guilty Melchert-Dinkel promised to appeal his conviction.

Melchert-Dinkel needs to be sentenced with the intention of deterring other people from similar acts. The family of Nadia and Mark senselessly lost a loved one to a suicide predator and they deserve a reasonable degree of justice.

William Melchert-Dinkel
The article from the Associated Press that was published in the Globe and Mail today stated:
A former nurse accused of seeking out depressed people online and encouraging two to kill themselves was found guilty Tuesday of aiding the suicides of a British man and Canadian woman.

William Melchert-Dinkel, 48, was charged in April with two counts of aiding suicide for allegedly advising and encouraging two people to take their own lives. Mark Drybrough, 32, of Coventry, England, hanged himself in 2005, and 18-year-old Nadia Kajouji of Brampton, Ontario, jumped into a frozen river in 2008.

Mr. Melchert-Dinkel declined a jury trial and left his fate to a judge, who issued his verdict Tuesday.

Rice County District Judge Thomas Neuville once again rejected Mr. Melchert-Dinkel's argument that his actions amounted to free speech. Mr. Melchert-Dinkel was not merely advocating ideas about suicide, Neuville said, but engaging in “lethal advocacy.” Judge Neuville scheduled his sentencing for May 4.

Defence attorney Terry Watkins said he and his client were disappointed with the verdict and planned to appeal. He said they didn't dispute the facts as the judge laid them out in his 42-page ruling, but respectfully disagreed on whether they added up to proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

After sentencing, Mr. Watkins said, their next stop will be the Minnesota Court of Appeals, and they're prepared to appeal to higher courts if necessary. He said the appellate courts will have to answer whether Mr. Melchert-Dinkel's actions rose to the level of a crime or were protected speech in the context in which they occurred.

“We will carry this as far as judicially allowed,” Mr. Watkins said.

Prosecutors said Mr. Melchert-Dinkel, of Minnesota, was obsessed with suicide and hanging and sought out potential victims on the Internet. When he found them, prosecutors said, he posed as a female nurse, feigned compassion and offered step-by-step instructions on how they could kill themselves.

Rice County Attorney Paul Beaumaster said Mr. Melchert-Dinkel told police he did it for the “thrill of the chase.” Prosecutors said he acknowledged participating in online chats about suicide with up to 20 people and entering into fake suicide pacts with about 10 people, five of whom he believed killed themselves.

“I think justice was served,” Mr. Beaumaster said after learning of the verdict. “I think it was a just verdict based on the facts of the case, and convictions were earned on both counts.”

Mr. Drybrough's mother, Elaine Drybrough, said if Mr. Melchert-Dinkel had been cleared it would have sent a signal to other people contemplating similar actions that encouraging suicides is permissible.

“He's been told it's not all right,” she said.

Deborah Chevalier
Ms. Kajouji's mother, Deborah Chevalier, also welcomed the ruling.

“I was always confident of a guilty verdict, but it is a great relief to have this finalized and have any nagging doubts quieted,” she said in an email. “I've said all along that a crime is just as vile and offensive whether it be committed in our own homes or over the Internet. This verdict today substantiates my belief that the Internet cannot be allowed to become a safe haven for criminals.”

In his ruling Tuesday, Judge Neuville affirmed his earlier rulings against Mr. Melchert-Dinkel, saying any predisposition of the victims to commit suicide was not a valid defence.

“The court finds that defendant's speech imminently incited the victims to commit suicide, and can be described as ‘lethal advocacy,' which is analogous to the category of unprotected speech known as ‘fighting words' and ‘imminent incitement of lawlessness,“’ the judge wrote.

During oral arguments in February, Mr. Watkins called his client's behaviour “sick” and “abhorrent” but said it wasn't a crime because Mr. Melchert-Dinkel didn't directly incite the victims to kill themselves.

He said Mr. Drybrough had been ill for years and went online seeking drugs to overdose, while Ms. Kajouji was going through a rough time in her life, had a miscarriage after drinking heavily and was depressed. Mr. Watkins said they were both intelligent people who wouldn't be swayed by his client's online “babbling.”

Mr. Beaumaster said during his oral arguments that Mr. Melchert-Dinkel's intent was to see them die, and the law is designed to protect vulnerable people.

“That's the point. That's who he looked for,” he said. “He targeted individuals he knew he could have an influence on. Were they predisposed? Absolutely!”

Mr. Melchert-Dinkel agreed in February to accept the facts against him, but maintained his not guilty plea. He waived his right to a jury trial and agreed that the judge would issue a verdict based on the evidence. That allowed Mr. Melchert-Dinkel to keep his right to appeal.

Minnesota authorities began investigating in March 2008 when an anti-suicide activist in Britain claimed someone in the state was using the Internet to manipulate people into killing themselves. Authorities found emails in which Mr. Melchert-Dinkel gave Mr. Drybrough technical advice on how to hang himself; and they found online chats in which Mr. Melchert-Dinkel tried to talk Ms. Kajouji out of her plans to jump into the river and instead hang herself with him.

Mr. Melchert-Dinkel posed as a woman in both cases.

Minnesota's aiding suicide law carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $30,000 fine. But the law has been rarely used. Data from the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission showed that since 1994, there have been only six people sentenced on the charge: one person was sent to prison for four years, while the rest received either local jail time, probation or both.

Ms. Chevalier said she fears the penalty won't be in line with the crime and that Mr. Melchert-Dinkel will appeal, causing more delays for any final resolution.

Mr. Melchert-Dinkel has been allowed to remain free under certain conditions. Among them, he is not allowed to use the Internet without approval.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition continues to wonder why the Ottawa police did not prosecute Melchert-Dinkel and seek to bring him to justice in Canada. EPC supported Harold Albrecht MP who sponsored Motion 388 in parliament to clarify whether Nadia Kajouji and others like her, are actually protected under Canadian law. The Canadian Criminal Code may still require a clarification on this question.

Previous article concerning the role of William Melchert Dinkel.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Baby Joseph is in St. Louis - What now?

Now that baby Joseph Maraachli has gone to the Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis MO, it is important to once again consider why this legal and media battle occurred and why the Ontario government needs to change the Health Care Consent Act.

The baby Joseph case was not about euthanasia.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition became involved in the baby Joseph case because the way that the decision was made will affect everyone. Many people have suggested that this was a case of euthanasia, but in fact it was not.

Some people have suggested that to withdraw the ventilator from baby Joseph would constitute an act of euthanasia.

Euthanasia is an action or omission of an act that directly and intentionally causes the death of another person with the intention of relieving suffering. Euthanasia is a form of homicide.

If the ventilator had been withdrawn from baby Joseph, he was likely to die, but he might have survived. If he died, his death would have been caused by his medical condition and therefore it is not euthanasia.

The baby Joseph case was about who has the right to decide.
The baby Joseph case was about who has the right to decide and what is in the best interest of baby Joseph.

The hospital wanted to withdraw the ventilator from Joseph, which likely would have resulted in his death in a short period of time.

The family wanted to bring Joseph home to die in their care, in the same way that they cared for their first child who died of a similar condition more than 8 years ago. The family asked that a tracheotomy be done to allow Joseph to breathe on his own, so they could bring him home.

The legal system in Ontario is not fair
A significant problem in Ontario is that the legal system is loaded against families. When a family and the doctor/hospital disagree about the treatment plan for a person, these cases are sent to the Consent and Capacity board for a supposed third-party decision. This is where the inequality begins.

The doctor/hospital have nearly unlimited financial resources to hire a top lawyer who has significant experience in this area of law.

The family usually has limited resources and will often hire a legal aid lawyer or a lawyer who lacks experience in this area of law.

When the Consent and Capacity board sides with the doctor/hospital, often the family will give up, but sometimes they appeal the decision to the Superior Court.

It is incredibly expensive for the family to bring a case to the Superior Court and yet the doctor/hospital has no fear of costs because the health care institution has nearly unlimited legal resources.

Because of the inequity in the legal defense, case after case results in decisions by the Consent and Capacity board that support the doctor/hospital.

The law's inequality has resulted in a growing body of precedent-setting cases that constantly increase the power of the doctor/hospital to make medical decisions against the wishes of the family. This must change.

The Ontario government must change the Health Care Consent Act. It is unreasonable that families are required to spend an incredible amount of money in order to defend their rights.

If doctors/hospitals have access to huge legal budgets that are in fact, taxpayers money, in order to fight families who are simply attempting to make medical care decisions on behalf of family members, then the system should also pay the cost for the family.

Ontario citizens should recognize that the great majority of precedent-setting legal cases have given more power to the doctors/hospital. The rights of each citizen in Ontario to make medical treatment decisions have been eroded. We hope that the energy that has been created around baby Joseph can be used to help other people by changing our health care statutes.

You also need to protect yourself. You can protect yourself by contacting the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and ordering the Life-Protecting Power of Attorney for Personal care. The cost for this legal document is only $25.00.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Idaho Senate passes SB 1070 by 31 to 2 clarifying the criminal code concerning assisted suicide

An article in the Idaho Statesman reported today on the vote on the Idaho Senate on bill SB 1070, the bill that clarifies in the Idaho criminal code that assisted suicide is illegal. Bill SB 1070 passed by a vote of 31 to 2 in the Idaho Senate.

My previous article reported that SB 1070 was unanimously supported in the Idaho Senate Affairs committee.

The article stated:
After a sober and emotional debate, the Idaho Senate on Friday passed a bill making assisted suicide a felony punishable by 5 years in prison on a 31 - 2 vote Friday.

Idaho Senator Russ Fulcher (R - Meridian) who sponsored the bill, told the media that now the bill will go to the house.

The senators who voted against the bill were Sen. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, and Sen. Diane Bilyeu, D-Pocatello who stated that the measure goes too far.

Bill SB 1070 is supported by the Idaho Medical Association. The bill clearly states that withholding or withdrawing medical treatment and the aggressive use of pain management drugs are not assisted suicide and are not discouraged by the bill.

The bill clarifies that intentionally prescribing a lethal dose or counseling a person to commit suicide is a crime in Idaho.

Washington State’s Assisted Suicide Report: No Information About Consent

By Margaret K Dore Esq(1)

On March 10, 2011, Washington State issued a formal report about its physician-assisted suicide act.(2) The report does not address whether the people who died under the act did so on a voluntary basis. The information provided is inherently unreliable.

A. Washington’s Act

Washington’s assisted suicide act was enacted via a ballot initiative in 2008 and went into effect in March 2009.(3)

During the election, proponents claimed that the act’s passage would assure individuals control over their deaths. The act, however, has significant gaps so that such control is not assured. For example, the act allows a person’s heir, who will benefit financially from the death, to assist in signing the person up for the lethal dose.(4)

There are also no witnesses required at the death.(5) Without disinterested witnesses, the opportunity is created for someone else to administer the lethal dose to the person without his consent. Even if he struggled, who would know?

B. The Assisted Suicide Report

1. Statistical information

Washington's assisted suicide report focuses on statistical information.(6) This information includes that lethal doses were reportedly dispensed to 87 people during 2010.(7) Of these 87 people, 51 are listed as having died after ingesting a lethal dose.(8)

2. Hearsay

The report also includes information about the circumstances of the deaths. For example, the report provides statistics regarding how long it took people to die after ingesting the lethal dose.(9) According to the report, the data for these statistics was obtained from an "After Death Reporting Form" completed by the prescribing physician after each death.(10)

According to the report, however, the prescribing physician is rarely present at the death.(11) He or she is necessarily relying on other persons for the data reported (or even making it up). The information provided is, regardless, hearsay.

3. Patient "concerns" are check-the-box responses on a pre-printed form

The report purports to document the "concerns" of the people who died, which led to their requesting the lethal dose.(12) The data for these concerns comes from a "check-the-box" question on the "After Death Reporting Form."(13)

The check-the-box question gives the prescribing doctor seven choices.(14) These choices do not include the possibility of abuse by an heir.(15)

4. No information regarding consent at the time of death

The Washington report provides no information as to whether the people who died consented when the lethal dose was administered.(16) In other words, there is no information regarding the voluntariness of the deaths.(17)

C. Conclusion

Washington's act has significant gaps, which render it a recipe for abuse. Washington's report, which does not even address whether administration of the lethal dose was voluntary, does nothing to alleviate this concern. The information provided is inherently unreliable.

(1) Margaret K. Dore is an elder law/appellate attorney in Washington state. She is a former Law Clerk to the Washington State Supreme Court. She is a former Chair of the Elder Law Committee of the American Bar Association Family Law Section. Her publications include "Death with Dignity”: A Recipe for Elder Abuse and Homicide (Albeit not by Name), Marquette Elder's Advisor, Vol. 11, No. 2, Spring 2010, available at: For more information, see
(2) Washington State Department of Health 2010 Death with Dignity Act Report, issued March 10, 2011, available at:
(3) Washington’s assisted suicide law was passed as Initiative 1000 on November 4, 2008 and went into effect on March 5, 2009. See Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 70.245.903.
(4) Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 70.245.030 and .220 state that one of two required witnesses to the lethal dose request form cannot be the patient's heir or other person who will benefit from the patient's death; the other witness may be an heir or other person who will benefit from the death.
(5) See Washington’s Act in its entirety, at Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 70.245.010 et. seq.
(6) Report, supra, at note 2.
(7) Id., Executive Summary, at p.1.
(8) Id.
(9) Report, supra, at note 2, page 9, Table 5 (“Circumstances and complications relating to ingestion of medication prescribed under the Death with Dignity Act of the participants who have died”).
(10) Id. (“Data are collected from the After Death Reporting form”). A blank “After Death Reporting Form” can be viewed at: (Last viewed March 10, 2011).
(11) According to the report, the prescribing physician was present when the lethal dose was ingested in just 4% of the deaths occurring in 2010; the prescribing physician was present at 8% of such deaths in 2009. See Report, supra, at note 2, Table 5, at page 9.
(12) See Report, supra at note 2, page 7, Table 3.
(13) See the After Death Reporting Form, supra, at note 10, Question 7.
(14) Id.
(15) Id.
(16) See Report, supra, at note 2.
(17) Washington's act provides for self-administration of the lethal dose. "Self-administer" is, however, a specially defined term that allows someone else to administer the lethal dose to the person at issue. For more information, see Margaret K. Dore, Death with Dignity: What Do We Tell Our Clients?, Washington State Bar Association, Bar News, July 2009, available at:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Baby Joseph case affects us all

The case of baby Joseph started out fairly clear, but as time has passed, many people have interpreted it as something it is not.

Joseph Maraachli was born without any problems. Then in May 2010, the Maraachli family brought Joseph to the Children's Hospital in Detroit because he was unable to breath. After several weeks of treatment, Joseph went home with his family in good health.

In October 2010, Joseph experienced a similar problem with breathing. His parents were driving home from Toronto and stopped at the hospital in Ingersoll Ontario. From there he was transferred to the Children's Hospital in London, where he remains.

The baby Joseph case concerns the question of who has the right to decide what is in the best interests of baby Joseph.

The hospital decided to withdraw the ventilator from Joseph, which would result in death, likely occurring, within a short period of time. Joseph would die while gasping for air.

The family decided that they wanted to bring Joseph home to die while in their care, in the same way that they cared for their first child who died of a similar condition more than 8 years ago. The family asked that a tracheotomy be done to allow Joseph to breath on his own, so they could bring him home.

The issue is who has the right to decide? Does the hospital and doctor or does the family have the right to decide on how to care for their terminally ill child?

Not about futile care.

This case is different from most of the similar cases because it is not about a family requesting treatment that is futile, burdensome or extra-ordinary.

The family is not asking for a portable ventilator to be set-up in their home, even though this would be a reasonable option. They are not asking for in-home nursing care to be provided. They did not ask for experimental treatment plans.

The family only asked to bring Joseph home, but to do so would require Joseph to be capable of breathing on his own. This is why they requested that a tracheotomy be done. A tracheotomy is not a difficult procedure, it is not futile, burdensome or extra-ordinary.

Not about euthanasia.

Some people have suggested that to withdraw the ventilator from baby Joseph would constitute an act of euthanasia. This is not true.

Euthanasia is an action or omission of an act that directly and intentionally causes the death of another person with the intention of relieving suffering. Euthanasia is a form of homicide.

If the ventilator is withdrawn from baby Joseph, he is likely to die, but he may survive. If he dies, his death would be caused by his medical condition and not a direct and intentional action or omission. Even if the intention is to cause his death, the reality is that his death would not be direct because it is caused by his medical condition and therefore is not euthanasia.

The precedent set by the baby Joseph case affects everyone.

If I had a massive stroke and I become incompetent, I am unable to swallow effectively and I have not indicated in anyway what I would want in such a circumstance and my wife would like an intervention done to allow me to be effectively fed, but the doctor says no, what will happen?

The precedents that have been set by the baby Joseph case and similar cases would force my wife to hire a high priced lawyer to defend her right to provide reasonable care for me. She would face a well paid lawyer who is financed by the hospital.

If the consent and capacity board sided with the hospital she would be forced to appeal the decision to the Superior Court, which would cost an excessive amount of money, simply to defend her right to have basic care provided for me.

In the courts, legal precedents, like the baby Joseph case, would be used to convince the judge that the decision of the doctor and the hospital is correct.

We are all at risk, unless decisions, like the baby Joseph case are not reversed or unless the legislation in the Province of Ontario is amended.

I support the plight of baby Joseph and the Maraachli family and I hope that the family and the hospital can achieve a mutual agreement. Maybe Joseph should be sent home and cared for on a portable ventilator?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

CARP asks federal government to add the offence of elder abuse to the criminal code.

The Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) is urging the government to enact legislation to place elder abuse into the Criminal Code. The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition supports the direction of CARP and we hope that an Elder Abuse Prevention Act can be devised to be introduced after the next election.

The article from 680 News stated:

A seniors lobby group is calling on the federal government to add the offence of elder abuse to the Criminal Code. 
The call comes as a Toronto couple stands accused of forcing a 68-year-old woman to spend four months living in a freezing garage. 
The woman's 43-year-old son and 28-year-old daughter-in-law have been denied bail. They've been remanded in custody until their next appearance in court on March 15. 
CARP spokesperson Susan Eng said doctors or caregivers should be obligated to report any signs of abuse, like they do for child and domestic abuse. 
"There should be some kind of duty to report when they see something going on, and we need to have some kind of investigative support for police officers who have to investigate these crimes," she said.
Eng also said our seniors should not be considered disposable. 
"We don't have an ice-float mentality here, and we're not about to start one," she said.